Being pregnant and training regularly throughout pregnancy is like the girl at the gym who’s on the stair climber with ankle weights: She’s working twice as hard just to keep up.
.But just because it’s harder doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.
Working out while pregnant is the perfect opportunity to see the progress that goes beyond aesthetics. During my wife’s pregnancy, the goal is still to help her gain muscle, burn fat, and accomplished athletic goals that will lead to a stronger wife both during and after pregnancy.
First, should pregnant women exercise?
Yes, as long as there is no complication.
But it’s always important for women to listen to the doctor first. Make sure you get the green light from their physician before you train.
Where Should Pregnant Women Begin?
Discovering a good starting point for you during pregnancy depends on your fitness level before pregnancy.
If you have no experience exercising, start with 10 minutes or less of easy aerobic movements in order to assess your tolerance.
You can still progress naturally as you build both cardio and muscular endurance, but maybe at a different pace. You can even try new fitness formats that help hold your interest, as long as you pace yourself appropriately.
What’s a Good Pregnant Pace?
The best and safest way to set the pace for a pregnancy training is to assess your perceived exertion
If described on a scale of 1 to 10, it’s usually best to keep her PE below an 8 or 9, to prevent your heart rate from getting and staying too high.
As long as your heart rate doesn’t linger at or above 85 percent of your maximum, there’s not usually any danger in keeping up a high intensity during pregnancy. Keep in mind, you should never reach the point of exhaustion or a state of breathlessness.
The more active a woman was before pregnancy, the more room there is for her to go up the PE scale.
A history of exercising at a moderate to high intensity means that your body is efficient at recovering to an acceptable heart rate (less than 85 percent of max heart rate).
If you are not experienced and can’t calculate your heart rate manually, a heart rate monitor is a good way to keep you safe and to educate you about your own perceived exertion and how it relates to heart rate activity. Over time, you will become more intuitive and can rely less on the monitor.
But the amount of effort it takes for you to reach a peak intensity will change the further you get into her pregnancy.
This is why it’s so important that you assess her perceived exertion consistently and regularly. For example, during your first trimester, your intensity may peak at 8 mph on the treadmill. By your third trimester, you may peak at 6 mph.
As just one example, in my experience training pregnant clients, I found that it was easier to maintain a jogging pace with a higher incline and maintain thier heart rate, rather than increasing speed only.
Everyone is different, though, so for cardio endurance, you might experiment with different modes of intensity: change the incline or switch gears on the elliptical or bike.
Can Pregnant Women Lift Weights?
Most definitely. Remember you are already carrying extra weight simply by being pregnant. Lifting a few more will only make you stronger.
Weight-bearing exercises are one of the best ways to increase core control, strength, and balance. I can’t think of a time you need all of those more than during and right after pregnancy.
The biggest risk to pregnant women lifting heavy weights is abdominal pressure and stress put on the uterus. As long as you approach weight lifting cautiously and train with good form and to feel the right muscles as you do an exercise, there is no reason you can’t lift and benefit from greater strength.
Important Safety Note: As a woman progresses in pregnancy, the hormone relaxin causes her joints to be less stable, so it’s usually best to do strength workouts with more reps and lower weights.
Are There Any Exercises to Avoid with Pregnant Clients?
Yes. Here are some things you’ll want to leave out of these training sessions:
Avoid: Exercises that have you flat on your back, like crunches—especially during the third trimester
Replace with: Exercises done on an incline bench or a standing cable machine
Avoid: Classes that risk direct contact to the core, like boxing or martial arts
Replace with: Shadowboxing, kickboxing with a bag, or dance
Avoid: Activities that could lead to a fall, such as trail-running or rollerblading. Duh
Replace with: Slower, more stable activities, like jogging, stairs, elliptical, indoor cycling, and swimming
Are There Exercises That Need to Be Modified?
There are some exercises that may work one day, and then not the next day. And, each woman is different from the next.
When I was training my clients Kristy her belly didn’t start to limit her range of motion until the end of my second trimester. However, I had friends who lost mobility by the end of their first.
It’s important to try to find modifications that require flexibility or long ranges of motion:
- Try single-leg deadlifts instead of regular deadlifts.
- Do high planks or bridges in place of planks.
- Replace straps, bands, and cable machines with weight-bearing exercises.
- If you can’t run anymore, try power walking on an incline.
- Instead of plyometric or high-impact jumping, use pulsing or isometric movements.
What Are the Best Aerobic Exercises for Pregnant Women?
I always push my clients to give 100 percent every time, unless there is a medical or safety reason to slow down. This means that for most pregnant women, perceived exertion can follow the same rules as everyone else during aerobic exercise—as long as their heart rate does not linger above 85 percent of their maximum heart rate for longer than a couple of minutes.
This may not apply to everyone, but it is a good guideline for the average athlete to prevent an increased body temperature from harming the baby.
Some ideas for acceptable aerobic exercise for pregnant clients:
• Brisk walking
• Rowing—with legs wide to accommodate the belly
• Stair climbing
• Elliptical machine
So, It’s OK to Push Yourself during Pregnancy
Yes…BUT…remember that each person is completely different and the level of intensity they can handle is up to them and their physician.
When I am working with a pregnant client, I know how to address setbacks and teach my client to listen to her body—skills that i use with any client.
As a trainer, I have great opportunity to help my pregnant wife be more confident in her changing body and to develop the mental and physical toughness essential for a healthy delivery and recovery.
Teach her how to be intuitive with her perceived exertion and how to differentiate good pain versus bad pain. Learning to be intuitive is key to understanding how to push through any plateau and make a breakthrough in your fitness endeavors, pregnant or not.